I’m sure I won’t be the first to say that traveling alone for any period of time can be an eye opening, possibly life changing experience. Nor the last. But I’ll add to the pool.
Especially my family was a little concerned with my idea to explore Croatia for seventeen days. Alone. I suppose it’s a generation thing (my grandparents and dad are all over 70), because none of my friends seemed nearly as surprised, though some questioned the idea. But none of that matters. I went, and man am I glad I did. Seventeen days became twenty-three, and – as cheesy as it sounds -, I returned home with a much clearer vision of what I want to do, where I want to go, and who I want to be.
So what did I learn during my nearly four weeks of soul searching (or, truthfully, two weeks of reflective thought and tranquil travel, and two weeks of partying and social mayhem)?
- Your body adapts itself better than you think
Compared to my routine at home, Croatia was Disneyland. No piles of vegetables, fruit bowls, of four-a-week workouts. There were days I had ice cream for dinner, crisps for lunch, and cocktails for dinner. I
halffully expected to come home and not fit into my skinny jeans or tight sports leggings anymore. Boy was I wrong. In fact, I think my jeans may even fit a little looser.For someone with a background of overly strict eating, the past month has thought and brought me more than months of therapy and self-improvement have done. I’ve learned to enjoy food, and to trust that my body functions like anyone else’s and thus doesn’t spontaneously packs on the pounds when I splurge on a croissant (or two). That it’s okay not to know exactly how much you’re eating, and not to care. Essentially, I’ve learned to let go, and trust my gut. And it’s working out pretty well so far.
- ‘Fit’ is not so simply defined
Despite by crisp and ice cream fuelled diet, somehow I still obtained the reputation of the ‘fit and sporty girl’. I don’t know why either. It may have been that forgotten Questbar I found tucked away in my bag. Or it may have been the quads (thanks genes). Either way, while I felt like a teenager on its first parent-free weekend, apparently some part of me still screamed ‘usually lives rather healthily and responsibly’.
- I don’t want to be tied to one place
After I returned from my two years abroad (London, Paris, Nice, London), I decided I wanted to stay put for a while. I moved to Amsterdam, eventually bought an apartment there, and got ready to, well, settle down. Consequently, my post-grad job hunt was centred around stability, having a solid base in Amsterdam, and ‘getting my shit together’.
Well, no more. I think it’s time to admit that I’m just not the type to stay in one place. To sit behind the same desk day after day. There’s too much of the world I want to see. People to meet, experiences to enjoy, things to learn. Sorry Amsterdam. You’re just not gonna cut it.
- You don’t have to be a social butterfly
And definitely not 24/7. I like privacy. My own space, time to think, time away from people. Hence the decision to travel alone. And so I was a little worried about extremely social hostel life. The parties. The constant company. Utterly unnecessary. People may enquire when you find your little piece of solitude to sit and read a book, but they (generally) don’t judge. Hey, we’re all grownups here (or well, you know, in essence). Do your thing. Whether that’s Bellini’s at 11am, or getting up for a hike at 7am. People tend to like you for you.
- Traveling alone brings the most amazing opportunities
Such as my decision to miss my flight and spend another six days on Hvar. In addition to so many little, but precious things: time to finish those books you’ve been meaning to read, to admire a view for as long as you’d like, to take five detours and realised you are utterly lost, to enjoy a meal alone and not have to protect your food from curious, sneaky dinner companions. But most of all, I believe you are so much more open to meeting new people when you are not surrounded by your usual circle of friends. I would not have wanted to miss the spontaneous dinners with strangers, the road trips with people I’d known for less than an hour, but who felt like close friends by the end of the day; the days of sailing, evenings of drinking and dancing, the shared sunsets. All the things that made this trip so special.